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"Debugging" Your Home

Barbara Willenberg, Former Associate State Nutrition Specialist

Jo Britt-Rankin, State Nutrition Specialist


Mice, rats, flies, ants, roaches and several types of beetles and moths are pests that come into our homes and make our food unsafe. They walk on food and on areas where we cook and eat our food. Their droppings get into food and can cause food poisoning. Pests come into our homes because they need food, water, and a place to live.

Take away pests' food supply

You can take away pests' food by quickly putting food away in covered containers. You don't need to buy anything special. Glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids and food-grade plastic bags are good for storage.

Be sure to store your food only in containers that were made to hold food. Containers like garbage cans and garbage bags were not made to store food. Harmful chemicals from garbage cans or garbage bags could get into your food and make you sick. Paper and cardboard don't make good food containers either, because pests can chew their way through them.

Pests also get food from dirty dishes, kitchen counters and tables. Wash dishes, counters and tables every day to keep pests out. Crumbs of food can hide in the cracks of your table and draw pests. Be sure to clean the crumbs out of crack every day.

Take away pests' water supply

You can take away pests' water supply by fixing leaky faucets and pipes and by sealing opening around all pipes. You can also empty and clean out refrigerator drip pans. Let all damp areas in your home dry out.

Take away pests' hiding places

You can take away pests' hiding places by wrapping garbage and keeping it in a garbage can with a tight lid. Take your garbage out every day. Fill all cracks in walls, seal opening around pipes and repair screens to keep pests out. Also, by putting screens over home foundation vents you can keep out mice and rats.

Your pet's food, water and droppings will also draw pests to your kitchen. Empty your pet's water and food bowls at night or feed pets outside. Keep cat litter boxes clean and clean up pet droppings in the yard around your home regularly.

Use the correct pesticide

If mice or rats have invaded your home, use traps or poisoned bait to control them. Make sure you follow the directions carefully. Place traps and bait in area where children and pets cannot get into them.

The best way to get rid of a few flies is a fly swatter and mending screens with holes. If you have a lot of flies, ants or roaches, you may have to use a pesticide. Use these safety guidelines:


  • Buy the type of pesticide that will work against your pest.
  • Read the label each time a pesticide is used and follow directions carefully.
  • Don't smoke, eat, or drink when you are working with pesticides.
  • Use pesticide only where needed.
  • Remove all food, dishes and utensils before treating an area with pesticide.
  • Do not treat kitchen counters or tables where food is prepared or eaten.
  • Remove your pet's food and water before treating an area with pesticide.
  • Remove everything from cabinets and drawers and wash them before spraying. Let shelves and drawers dry and cover them with new shelf paper before replacing food, dishes and utensils.
  • Keep people and pets out of the area you are treating with pesticide.
  • Keep pesticides in original containers with the label and store them out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Refer to labels for directions on how to safely dispose of empty pesticide containers.
  • If poisoning occurs, call poison control immediately. Save the pesticide label to show your doctor.


Signs of beetles and moths

Several types of beetles and moths can hatch in dry foods like flour, rice, cereal, beans, spices, dried fruits and nuts. Telltale signs are webbing, clumped together food, holes in packages or food and insect droppings. To get rid of these pests:


  • Inspect food and throw out any that has bugs.
  • Store food in tightly sealed glass or plastic containers.
  • Scrub all shelves, drawers and containers in the infested area with hot water and household cleaner.
  • To keep insects from hatching in dry foods, place food in tight containers in the freezer at zero degrees for four days before storing. Or, heat food on trays in the oven at 130 to 150 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool food, package tightly and store.
  • Store grain foods in the refrigerator or freezer during the summer.



Last Updated 10/25/2007










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